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Otakon 2014: Katabuchi blurs reality and fiction through teary eyes and tireless effort

We speak with the director of Mai Mai Miracle, Black Lagoon, and In This Corner of the World

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Sunao Katabuchi, director of such titles as Black Lagoon and Mai Mai Miracle as well as the upcoming MAPPA production In This Corner of the World, made his first Otakon appearance this year. At his first Q&A, Katabuchi started off by commenting how he has become very fan-friendly after the initial release and then subsequent treatment of Mai Mai Miracle by the Japanese box office system, which was starkly contrasted by the fan-based Kickstarter that cried out for and then enabled a U.K. and North American release. (More on that below.) He allowed and encouraged photos of both himself and everything in his panels, which included backgrounds, layouts, character designs, and early artwork. This openness was only matched by his enthusiasm during his Q&A sessions. And his commentary after the Mai Mai Miracle screening, which already had the audience choking back tears, was incredibly tender and heartwarming. The sheer amount of dedication, passion, and tenacity this director exudes should serve as inspiration to all. His second Q&A wrought a standing ovation in honor of his extensive research efforts. When's the last time you saw that happen?

Many heartfelt thanks are due to those responsible for coordinating Mr. Katabuchi's appearance, the translator for his efforts, and, of course, Mr. Katabuchi himself. The transcriptions that follow, while lengthy, hopefully relay what made me transition from being a fan of Katabuchi's work to admiring the man himself, and inspire the same feeling of awe for any who read on.

Katabuchi Q&A #1

This is my first time at Otakon. I’ve actually been to several American anime conventions, but it’s my first time coming to Otakon. Normally I come with titles such as Black Lagoon, but this time I’m actually working on a new film and would like to share a little bit of the film with you guys before it’s even released.

So who watched Black Lagoon here? I think that’s a more popular series in the States, but who had the chance to watch Mai Mai Miracle or participated in the Kickstarter campaign? Mai Mai Miracle opened in Japan in 2009, but everyone in Japan thought an American release wasn’t feasible. But 2,000 fans got together on Kickstarter and made it possible. Now an English (U.K.) company is releasing the DVD or Blu-ray, and Andrew, the producer of that project, is very happy. So the film should be ready later on this year or next year. But we do have a screening of Mai Mai Miracle today from 1:30 to 3:30 in Video Room 1. Right now, I'm working on the new poster for the Kickstarter campaign. So those of you who took part will get that poster.

I’m sure some of you are still waiting for the sequel to Black Lagoon, but I’ve actually already covered all of the manga that’s already out. So until we get a little bit more built up by the artist, Hiroe-san, I don’t think we’ll be able to make another season yet. What you see on screen is an actual Black Lagoon background—art we used in the TV series. There’s lots of production materials that I made from Black Lagoon, but unfortunately I didn’t bring them up this time. So I only have three pieces of art. When I left Madhouse, I left lots of materials there, and that's wher they are still. So what you're seeing now is something called a layout, and this is something used to diagram the whole animation sequence for that shot. For this layout, as well as most of these far shots (establishing shots) of the city or town, I tried to draw the entire thing myself. This is because I try to grasp the whole world first. From there, I start to go into the smaller sections. Of course, Black Lagoon was based on the original manga by Hiroe-san. But working with Hiroe-san for the animation, we tried to develop the city as based on Hong Kong and Vietnam (mainly), because it doesn’t exist in real life. These are some of the props used in Black Lagoon. For example, the prop design for the German U-boat that appeared in the series was only created via reference pictures. But when I went to Anime Central after Black Lagoon and saw the U-boat exhibit in Chicago, I realized, when I was in there, that we did a really good job depicting how the actual U-boat structure is. As soon as I stepped in, I knew exactly where all these things were.

So Maruyama and I left Madhouse, because it was bought out by a parent company and that changed their business style. And both of us believe that, at this new Madhouse, we wouldn't be able to make the films that we would like to. So that’s why we left together. Then Maruyama started a new studio called MAPPA. And it's funny; MAPPA has much more work than Madhouse now. Maruyama claims MAPPA stands for several things, but I'll tell you why he really used that name. In Italian, MAPPA means map, but in Japanese, MAPPA means naked. Maruyama, who left Madhouse when he was 70 years old, felt that building a new company was like being reborn again—a completely naked baby. So that’s why he really named it MAPPA.

When we started MAPPA, the first thing I started working on was Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni. This is the original manga it’s based on. There’s a French version of it but no English version, so there wasn't even an English title. When we found out we were going to Otakon, we had to decide the English title as soon as possible. So we sat down with the publishers and we were discussing what possible titles could be. What we finally came to for the English title is In This Corner of the World. The manga is still not released in English, but when it is released in English, it should have that same title. I would love for people to be able to read the original manga in English. In many articles, when we made the announcement, this film was announced with different titles. But for further announcements, people can spread this title: In This Corner of the World. We brought layouts from this film, and they're displayed in Artist’s Alley right now. So if you guys have time, stop by Artist’s Alley and take a look at what kind of film it will be. I’ve been doing similar exhibits in Japan too, and people have been calling me crazy. You might be able to see why people have been calling me that when you look at the layouts. I’m sure some of you are dying to ask questions, so let’s open the floor to Q&A?

What was your biggest inspiration when making Mai Mai Miracle?
When I was at Madhouse, Maruta brought a book to me. It was about children’s life in the 1950s in an area called Yamaguchi Prefecture in the West side of Japan. Even though it was about people who would be older than me, I felt similarities with my childhood. That’s why I wanted to work on Mai Mai Miracle.

One of your staff credits is that you worked on the American cartoon of Street Fighter. First of all, is this true? And second: what was that experience? Was it substantially different making this cartoon for an American audience versus making anime for a Japanese audience?
That’s like a 20-year old series, right? It was so long ago, I can’t really remember it. But I think I did draw Chun-Li and the storyboard. I worked on several game-based animations. At the time, I realized that Japanese games were, going to be enjoyed worldwide, not only in Japan, so I did try to keep in mind that it was going to eventually make it out of Japan. I think I’m starting to remember that I did work on Street Fighter II, but at the time, I was only asked to do part of it. And I remember, at the time, I was thinking, "You know, you should really make me do all this instead of part of it."

(Ani-Gamers: Evan): You’ve been talking a lot about layouts in your panel so far, and you’ve worked as both a storyboarder and a layout artist. Could you describe some of the differences between working in those two roles?
For the storyboard, you’re basically drawing out the whole episode or a whole part of the series. And while you’re doing this, you’re basically making a timeline. And for layouts, what you’re doing is basically structuring out the detail of the world in picture.

Who would you say are your inspirations? Who do you draw things from in your work as a director, as a writer?
I’m just mostly watching TV dramas these days. There’s actually dramas that play every single day in Japan. Some station by NHK does it in the morning. And there’s really excellent scriptwriters that works on these shows, so that’s where I get inspired. I’ve been watching late night dramas too, but since I’m getting old, I get sleepy at night. That’s why I wake up early and watch morning dramas. Some depiction of things are more brilliant than movies at times, so it’s a very good inspiration.

In your experiences, what are the differences you notice between fan cultures in Japan and abroad? And also, what’s a good drama I should check out?
I believe that the English community, and this is something I realized from the Mai Mai Miracle Kickstarter, is trying to build their own culture. Given that, my thought pertaining to Japanese fan culture perspective is that the Japanese are actually far behind. They’re used to being fed what they’re supposed to watch. So I think the Japanese are catching up to the English fanbase right now.

There’s NHK dramas called Amachan and Ching Toota Ching and Carnation.  Those three I really recommend. Ching Toota Ching is about people who do this art called nakago in Japan. They don’t have money, but they do something like crowdfunding and achieve success. So I felt sympathy for that drama.

(Ani-Gamers: Ink): Given the tonal differences between the works which you handle, like Black Lagoon and Mai Mai Miracle, could you describe some of the ways that you adapt your technique to suit each individual project?
It’s kind of a mind where if you eat sweet stuff you’ll want to eat salty or sour stuff. So that’s why I want to do different things. Miyazaki, Hayao Miyazaki, actually likes types of novels like Black Lagoon, but unfortunately, he’s not allowed to make something like Black Lagoon. So I’m more unfortunate then him.

(Ani-Gamers: Ink): If I could just follow up, what are some of the directorial techniques you use to differentiate the works?
It’s not really the genre difference. I believe every project has a different face. So I try to keep a grasp of what kind of face that project has.

Can you describe your experience at Studio Ghibli, and does it still affect your work today?
Working at Ghibli was actually an extended experience from working at Telecom Studios, where Miyazaki and I were both employed first. What they really tried to do is make sure everyone grasped hold of the basics of animation. When I moved to Ghibli to work with Miyazaki once again, I was basically doing the same thing we were doing at Telecom. There were staff who got dropped out of Telecom or that wasn’t able to get into Telecom, but they were able to get into Ghibli. Some actually made it to animation director. Eventually, everyone sits in the same place if they have the same vision.

(Ani-Gamers: Evan): What drew you to adapting the work of the manga artist Fumiyo Kouno for your newest film?
As I touched on, I was depicting the 1950s Yamaguchi Prefecture with Mai Mai Miracle, but that really related to my childhood. After working on Mai Mai, I came to the realization that I could create something not based off of my childhood. So, for example, if you go 10 years back from my childhood, that’s a completely another era. So I was wondering if I could depict a story from an era I never experienced before. In Mai Mai Miracle, there was a mother, Shinko, but she actually married her husband when she was 18 years old. I was thinking, "Well maybe I might do a story of  her instead." There’s a big generation gap between 1950s and 1940s, and so if I worked on such a film, I was thinking I might be able to imagine something I never experienced before. When I was talking to the Mai Mai Miracle fans in Japan, they were mostly fans who were also fans of Fumiyo Kouno. When I talked to them about it, they all said, “Instead of doing that, there’s already a manga that’s similar to that. So you should work on that.” So I wrote a letter to Fumiyo Kouno-sensei asking if I could animate her original manga. She actually didn’t know my name, and I sent a video of Mai Mai Miracle with the letter. In her return letter, she asked me, “Were you the director who worked on Lassie?” And she really loved Lassie the animation.

I’m sure you also know of Shin Itagaki’s Teekyu, which is also made at MAPPA. Would you ever consider working on it with him?
MAPPA actually has a couple of studios now. There’s the first studio and second studio. Most of the things are going on in the first studio, and at the second studio, which is where we're at, I think we’re completely isolated. Itagaki-san was actually in the second studio for a while, but he left to go somewhere else. So I haven’t seen him in a while.

Is it OK if I ask two questions? The first has to do with one of your early credits is Sherlock Hound. What was it like working on that show especially because it had interesting production issues? (Or so I’ve heard.)
I don’t think there were actual production issues. It’s more the legal issues we had. We started making it before the contract was closed. And so at one point, they completely shut us down. But we renegotiated afterwards, actually discussing a budget, and then we started working on it again. And when the project started up again, Miyazaki was no longer there. There was a new director. But when Miyazaki was working on it, he actually wrote so many storyboards—more than currently exist in the animation. So as staff, I really wanted to work on those episodes.

The second question has to do with Fumiyo Kouno’s work, which you’re adapting. I’ve seen that there’s some criticism of her work that it is not critical enough of the issues of that time: radiation, effects of radiation, imperialist Japan, etc. In adapting Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni, do you anticipate encountering similar issues, and are you already prepared to deal with them when they come?
If you look at the title closely, it’s In This Corner of the World. So it’s a corner of a world. It’s a huge world, but the story takes place in just this corner of the world. Making the film, I have to be aware of what the entire world is. But I must also be kept in mind that this film is about one girl’s perspective — just a normal girl’s perspective — in this corner. This work is really about one person, how she sees the war. So I think that's the realism we’re going for. As an example: if you have a chance to look at Fumiyo Kouno’s work, most of the time she doesn’t explain what’s happening. In this frame, why is there a yo-yo? Right before this time, it’s 1964 January, that’s when the major yo-yo trend hit Japan. So what’s illustrated here is the fact that this one girl is interested in yo-yo's because of the trend, but that entire trend in Japan is not part of the story. So this work is really strictly based on the perspective of this one girl. I think this perspective’s really critical. It’s basically touching on what one person can establish — how much can she interact with the world. So there’s many clues and hints about the world around her, but there’s no explanation; it’s really up for the viewer to interpret it or discover the surrounding world. This manga has tons of hints but no explanations, so you can find enjoyment in that too.

These are all the reference materials I gathered for making In This Corner of the World. [Shows picture of over-stuffed shelves] This is not even enough yet. Even with this much reference material and books, it’s still not enough to fully depict what’s described in the In This Corner of the World manga. And it was really hard getting all these books together too. Also, I’m running out of space to put shelves. I think the lesson is that everyone should keep a bookshelf inside their house.

Last year at Otakon, I saw a short animation directed by you named Hana wa Saku (The Flower Blooms). I tried looking for it online in the usual places: YouTube, miku miku, NHK’s website, and couldn’t find any trace of it anywhere. I finally had to find a recording someone had made of it from the NHK. Is there any reason why this is so hard to find?
This is actually a DVD sold in Japan. This one was strictly made for a charity, for the people who got hit by the tsunami, the earthquake, and 3/11. And so the royalties for us — the director, the songwriter — go to the charity; we donate it. So it’s really a harsh thing, but it’s not really to be watched freely (without payment). So if you guys could help out, if you guys are interested, if you guys could purchase one, that would be great. Hana wa Saku CD’s on sale, and the DVD comes with it.

In your bio, it said you were writing for or with Hayao Miyazaki. I was wondering how that opportunity arised.
Me and Miyazaki were both under the tutilage of Hiroshi Ikeda, who’s actually worked on such animations as The Flying Ghost Ship (Flying Phantom Ship) and Treasure Island, and there was an event Miyazaki posted about gathering up people who like this stuff. The event was really supposed to be passed on as to invite other people, such as Yasuji Mori, but it ended with Miyazaki and that’s all. At the time, I was in film school. Miyazaki was already working as a professional, but when he worked on Sherlock Hound, he was looking to work with students. And at the time, he remembered that I was still a student. This is a drawing I did when I was 21 years old for Sherlock Hound.

Have you met Fumiyo Kouno in person?
I’ve met her many times. She’s eight years younger than me, but she’s very thoughtful and energetic.

Post-Mai Mai Miracle Screening

This movie is based off the novel. And the original author, Nobuko Takagi-san, actually has a swirl on her forehead (a feature of the hair of the main character). So it’s basically her growing up. Now, as an adult, she is one of the judges on one of the most famous novel awards: the Akutagawa Award. What she really hoped was that when this movie was completed, she would see her friend, that long-parted friend, off of whom she based Kiiko. But unfortunately it seems they still haven’t met each other yet. One of my mentors in animation, Iko Kanada, enrolled into the same school Shinko went to. Kanada-san enrolled into the same grade as her—third year, third class—but he loved to make plastic models. And Kanada-san passed away during the summer of 2009, when this movie was completed. The house Nobuko Takagi-san lived in, so basically Shinko’s house, is inhabited by Kanada-san’s classmate. And when we went to go location hunting in Hofu City for this movie, his classmate told us many stories about Hofu. And unfortunately by then, all the wheat field that you see around Shinko’s house turned into houses. And then the resident, so the classmate of Iko-san, passed away as well. The year we revisited the location, that house was even gone. So everything is gone now, but still the shape of the mountain remains the same. And yet the remains from the pillars are still in the ground from millennia ago. When we went to go visit Hofu in 2007 for the movie, that’s when they were excavating that same house, the mansion, from the millennia ago. And now, to preserve it, they've buried it underground again. When I drew the mountain in this film, I tried to make it loyal to the actual shape of the mountain so people in Hofu, when they see this film, know exactly where the shot is taken from. Talking about this kind of thing really blurs the boundary of reality and fantasy. When we went to Kukuda, by that memorial stone, we made up an outdoor theater and played this movie there at night. At the end of the movie, when the kids, the two girls, are running under the Milky Way, the Milky Way in reality and the Milky Way in the movie synchronized. So it really blurred what’s real and what’s fantasy. But the story was based off of Nobuko Takagi-san’s life experience. And according to her story, she actually did find the goldfish that should’ve been dead. In animation, of course, everything is fiction, because it’s nothing of reality. But regarding the story of this film, you never know what part is fiction and what part is reality. I think a film like this is good to have.

Katabuchi Q&A #2

This is how the original Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni manga starts out. This is the very first page of the comic. In order to put this scene into the film, something’s missing. Movies are shot in 16 x 9 frames. So this picture (referring to the single manga panel) is not enough to fill an entire frame. Obviously this is one frame where the author is looking at something in the drawing. So the first thing we have to do is find out what the artist is looking at in order to draw this picture. (Shows picture of a building.) This was the exact location she actually looked at, but this is the present time at that location. In the comic, there’s a pine tree there. But when we first went, there was a pine tree in a different position instead. The owner of this house tried to keep the pine tree there and tried to build a new house there, but unfortunately the pine tree died. So instead, there’s a parasol standing there. When we move off a little bit to the left side, you see there’s a prison wall right there. But there used to be a port there. So we looked at several materials, went to the location, and we combined all this information together and tried to replicate the scene from that time. In this square picture, it was really hard to tell what was on the side. I mean especially on the left side. In fact, this place actually had a harbor out there. And in the distance, you can actually see a mountain. So if you go out to the exact location that’s drawn in the manga, in person, then you can notice there’s a mountain in the background. And that was the first frame. Now the second frame was much harder.

There’s nothing. (The frame shown is empty save a girl walking down a street.) There’s absolutely no information, or so it appears. But from the actions, you can see that she’s walking the street that’s now going parallel to the river. (Shows another photo.) This is an actual photo taken from the sky in 1939 at the same place we were talking about. There’s actually a date marking in the original comment that says it’s January 1934. It’s only a 5 year difference, so it’s very close to what we could see. There’s a harbor here (points), so we’re speculating that the character is basically walking along the water. So she should end up around here. (Points to another place in the photo.) You can see that there’s three houses standing right there. So what we have to do here is find photos of these three houses, somehow, and then draw the picture. When we went there, in present day, this is the house on the edge of the three houses. (Shows a picture of the house.) Based on that, we drew this. (Shows picture of the drawing of the house). In the second frame, it’s only blank. But we’ve blown it up, done research, and made the actual background. But since it was a photo we took at the present day, we have doubts; this house may be a new one. This house is located 800 km away from our studio. So we had it singled out and traveled all that distance to go check out what’s actually there. So this is the house. (Shows a picture of the house.) At the time, there was a river up to here. But now they’ve buried it. We actually took a look under the house, and it was indeed new construction. So we found out that we can’t use this photo anymore. Then we started looking for old photos. And we found this photo. (Shows the photo they found.) It’s really hard to see, but it’s still the same location. So from that photo, we re-imagined what it could have been like, and this is the picture we came up with. For the building on the right, we also looked over the aerial photo and have redrawn that one too. So it used to be a square house. But having discovered it was older architecture, we redrew this art. So what I really want to tell you guys is that all the scenes you’ll be seeing, or you see in the art gallery for In This Corner of the World, we’re basing off of something that actually existed in 1950. The original manga author, Fumiyo Kono, was born in this town around this time. To me, it’s another foreign land that’s 800 km away. When I first opened this book up, I see this little girl Suzu. She’s just walking around, and I had no clue where she was walking. And there’s only little bits of hints put into the manga that would specify where this actually was. So we kept looking for more photo references at the time so we could make the actual setting.

I wanted people to realize that the pictures they’re seeing on screen are somehow connected to the real world.

In this frame, this is the exact picture of what you would have seen at that time. From this photo, you could actually find out that this was Hiroshima. And the court, if you go down the street, has tons of stores. If you go down to the edge, the deeper end of it, there’s actually a bridge. We only know about this, you can’t tell by the photo, because we actually went there and discovered it. There’s a crank and there’s a bridge, after that, there’s a bridge. And on the left side, towards the bridge, there’s a hospital. Right above this hospital, about 500 m above, that’s exactly where the Hiroshima bomb exploded. So that's the exact location of where this picture was taken. Now it’s just Hiroshima Peace Park. There’s a very beautiful lawn that’s spread across the park. When I started looking up these kind of things, I thought it must be important, for the people in Hiroshima, to depict the town they used to live in as closely as possible.

Suzu’s lost here and is wandering around. I did say everything was gone, but there’s actually one place that remains. This part does not specify where the location is, but I thought that if the remaining building, if I place it in here in the past, this version of the past, then I believe that people in the present could actually visit the park and imagine where Suzu was walking. The only building remaining after this long is this building. This building is only 170 m away from ground zero, but it was built in 1929. And not only are they still using this building, but the second story is used by the Hiroshima Film Commission. So we decided to make Suzu wader around or get lost in front of this building. It might be hard to see on the screen right there, but Suzu’s actually somewhere along there. So the second story of this building in present day is now Hiroshima Film Commission, and in the first story, there's actually a store, just a vending store, for the department. We looked it up, and it used to be a department store that sells kimono. It used to have children over there, and the store clerk’s wearing something called a happi. There’s actually one happi left from that time. So basically, I wanted to put this building inside the film, because I wanted people to realize that the pictures they’re seeing on screen are somehow connected to the real world.

The building we saw is too big to be put into the animation, because it currently looks like this. (Shows scale drawing of building in film layout.) It looks larger than in real life. So in the film, I wanted to give the impression. And in doing this, we had one problem: the one building that’s closer would come into camera too. But this store no longer exists, of course, and there’s no photo of it from that time. The only way to really figure out what it looked like was to ask the people who lived there at the time. Not everyone died in this town. There were kids, elementary schoolers, who evacuated from town before the bomb. So they came back to this town after that. So we heard their stories about the store, and they mention that the store used to be a store called Taishoya, a Taisho clothing (kimono) store. There actually used to be a railing here that kids used to sit on. It was all made out of brass, so it was glittering this gold color. People told us that there was another store in front, which was a cloth store, and they told us that this store also had a golden railing. So we asked many people about this, but it’s based on the memory from 70 years ago, so of course each person remembers it differently.

Suzu is a fictional character Fumiyo Kouno has made up, but the world around her uses every single detail of the real world as a reference. That’s how the author built this world, so my mission as director is to research all of that.

Based on each person’s memories, we hear different pictures. So the sign on the store could’ve had light bulbs, or it could’ve even had phone numbers on it. And we were told that the sign was colored in black, so we tried coloring it this way. There isn’t actually any photos remaining of that particular store, but here (he points to the screen) you can see the sign. Here, you can tell that the sign is not black. It’s this vertical sign that’s the black one. We re-colored it this time and made it this color. We were told that there was a store with windows here. (Points) The son of this store actually survived the war but unfortunately passed away January of this year …  so before we could interview him. But we found out that the daughter of the store next to this one is still alive. She emailed me while I was on the plane to Otakon. She looked at the picture and told me that there was only one window and that, since it was clothing store, there was not a mannequin inside but fabric. So she was telling me that it was bringing back memories of when she used to go play nextdoor; they used to grill tangerines at the back of the store. She talked to me a lot about her childhood. In this letter, she talked a lot about that time when Suzu was alive, or would’ve been alive if she was actually there. So just by looking at these few samples, you can tell that there’s so much to the world of In This Corner of the World that’s not actually illustrated in the original manga. There’s the entire world, and she lives only in this corner of the world. So as filmmakers, we must grasp hold of her entire world.

Here you can see a bridge. And you can see two bridges here. And this is what the bridge actually looked like at the time. Later on, they thought the extra part of the bridge was unnecessary. So they dismantled this L-shaped part. After that, this is what the bridge looked like. (T-shape.) There’s not a single explanation about the condition of the bridge when you’re reading the manga. But later on you see another bridge, a similar bridge. And unlike the previous frame, in this frame you see only one bridge. What looks like another bridge is actually just the mast of the ship. So we weren’t sure which version of the bridge Suzu walked to at the time. From this turn of the bridge, we thought she was walking on the T-shaped version of the bridge. In this scene, you could see Suzu and her husband just standing next to each other. There’s no depiction of any of the scenery that you could see in front of the bridge. I’m going to touch on it later, but notice that the railings on the bridge are tilted. Remember that for later. So we looked for these kinds of things in photos. You can see that, in this picture, this one (railing) is slightly tilted. From this we found out that Suzu and her husband are standing at this exact location. So that camera is basically looking at them from this location. We’ll zoom out from this picture; this picture’s actually taken in panorama. From the top of the bridge, they were actually looking at this exact pier. But of course, in the book, this is not really explained. The corner of the world that she’s standing in is illustrated in the manga, but the world that’s surrounding her, this world, is not illustrated in the comic. So the building we were talking about, the department store, is actually this building that you can see in this photo. And the clothing store, and the fabric store, and the store next to it are no longer there in that picture. Not only that, but most of the buildings are completely gone. In her book, she puts all those kinds of historical factors, but she just illustrates the corner. While finding out where they were at, I kind of had the thought that maybe I should be telling the audience what exact location they were at. So this original manga is forcing a filmmaker to do all this hardcore research.

In this scene, Suzu is looking at a cloud from an airplane. In fact, I actually know which plane, which exact plane, this plane was flying overhead. So the date in the manga is April 6, 1945. And there’s actually one record of one plane that’s flying over this town. This point in time. There’s also a scene where’s Suzu is walking in snow. But from that fact, we can already tell that Suzu is walking on February 25, 1945; that’s the exact date when all of Japan had heavy snow. Suzu is a fictional character Fumiyo Kouno has made up, but the world around her uses every single detail of the real world as a reference. That’s how the author built this world, so my mission as director is to research all of that.

What’s the difference between producing TV shows versus movies?
It’s difficult to get a green light. Even if unpopular, TV shows might get re-broadcast. Japanese box office system decides how entire release will do upon first weekend. This reflected badly for Mai Mai Miracle, which had enough budget for production but not promotion. Consequently, attendance suffered. The film crew thusly became the street team and turned things around but too late. People were packing theaters, but the contract was already cancelled. We did find theaters after that which would play the movie for the entire year, and that led to the DVD release.

How long did the research take?
Research began in August of 2010.

(Ani-Gamers: Ink): What are the sources for the reference materials in that bookcase, and, in the case of interviews with Hiroshima residents, what were their reactions to why you were interviewing them?
Japan's used book stores have network connection. First, I’d find a book and study on my own as accessing the Hiroshima archives was not an option. There’s also a network of the children survivors of Hiroshima that’s directed by a teacher, and he introduced people to us. Otherwise individuals might not have responded.

Click here for more coverage of Otakon 2014.

The Trap Door: Once More Unto the Breach

Arcadia of My Youth (1988)

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Arcadia DVD cover

One of those guilty pleasures I have as I turn into an old fart is the standalone, unexplainable anime film. Leiji Matsumoto understands that. Why else would he have created such an amazing character in Space Pirate Captain Phantom F. Harlock? In a franchise that rewards itself with reinventing itself, Matsumoto, in handing over directing duties to Tomoharu Katsumata and writing to Yōichi Onaka, helped create what I feel is THE definitive Harlock story: Arcadia of My Youth.

Set in the far future, when Earth and its Solar Federation has been established and settled, Space Corp's Captain Harlock returns home to find his world conquered by the Illumidus Empire and totally subjugated. Harlock cannot accept this. Rather than submit to his new masters, Harlock bands together with a brilliant engineer, Tochiro Oyama, and some of the Illumidus’ slaves to lead an insurrection. Using the new starship, Arcadia, designed by Tochiro, Harlock and his crew decide to set off to find help from the homeworld of the slaves, known as Tokargans, and stop the occupation of Earth.

Arcadia of my Youth Splash 1

Harlock isn’t trying to fight his destiny, he’s trying to be worthy of it.
What makes Arcadia work as a Harlock story is that it exists as the most clean-cut version of his origin. How did Harlock become a space pirate? Why is he fast friends with Tochiro? How did he acquire the Arcadia? This movie answers all of these questions and more. Over the years, Harlock's origin has been told and retold, because Matsumoto doesn’t believe in dragging his franchise along with a convoluted timeline. Every time you sit down to a Harlock story, he is the same and different at the same time. Arcadia’s prime reason for existing is that it is a self-contained story that is told neatly and compactly. My favorite part is how Tochiro and Harlock are friends.

Meeting in World War II, their ancestors forge a bond that traverses the ages, and when they meet in the 2960’s, they already feel like they know each other. This is completely implausible, but it goes toward understanding the vibe of the movie. Matsumoto is on record as being, hmm, set in his ways. He strikes me as a Romantic, albeit a little too fatalistic for my tastes, who doesn’t seem to like that Japan lost the war against the Allies. All of his Harlock stories have a “Fighting against impossible odds” bent, and Harlock comes across like a defeated man even before the battle starts. Arcadia is a boys adventure in the mold of a World War II novel—"Won’t it be glorious to die in battle" (and that sort of thing), violence and warfare are not glamorized, and all fights end honorably. Harlock goes into the adventure feeling he can win, but as the film progresses, he gets dealt bad hand after bad hand. Ironically, and maybe this was a deliberate act on the writers part, the humans who the Illumidus’ appoint as overseers come across as even more dishonorable than the Illumidus’ themselves. Make no mistake, they are ruthless, but they at least treat Harlock’s code of honor with amusement whereas the human administrators are perplexed and confused by Harlock wanting to fight the good fight.

Arcadia of My Youth Splash 2

Arcadia is a boys adventure in the mold of a World War II novel.
All the characters have reasons for fighting. Harlock’s, I’ve already stated. Tochiro doesn’t want to live under the Illumidus. Esmeraldas (a fellow Space Corp captain turned fighter) has the same kind of code of honor as Harlock, but she is less harsh in her delivery. Maya, Harlock’s former lover, is the Voice of Free Arcadia and a symbol of human resistance. She’s a standard, and she knows it. Even the Tokargans know it’s only a matter of time before their bosses turn on them. I should probably warn you that if you’re going into this thinking it will be good triumphing over evil, you might want to skip this. Nothing is really resolved by the end, and Harlock himself gets more personal heartache than most heroes should. Onaka, Katsumata, and Matsumoto like ‘em really tragic, I guess. All along the way, we see bits and pieces from the ancestors of Harlock who overcame problems themselves but didn’t defeat them: a desperate flight over Papua New Guinea, a fight to the death over the skies in WWII Europe. All these things are leading up to the latest version of Harlock. He was always destined to find Tochiro, always destined for heartbreak and personal loss, and always going to face his demons. The most uplifting thing about Harlock and Arcadia is that you can, much like Kipling tells you that you can, meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same. Harlock isn’t trying to fight his destiny, he’s trying to be worthy of it. Whether you’re watching the previous TV show, the subsequent TV shows, or OVAs (including the follow-up series to this (SSX Endless Orbit), Arcadia is the most Harlock story possible. I do like the other versions (I’m partial to Harlock Saga for some reason), but Arcadia is my favorite.

Arcadia of My Youth Splash 3

While I've always liked the design work in Harlock, Arcadia has all the parts you'll recognize—from the Arcadia's layout to Harlock's dress sense. It's all high collars and huge goddamn boots for everyone. The Arcadia is one of my favorite fictional ships because it's so impossible as a design: a huge steel hull with a massive skull and crossbones on the front of the hull and a Spanish galleon's stern complete with wood finish and Jolly Roger that despite the laws of physics, somehow blows in space. While the animation could be described as perfunctory, where it really excels is in the nebula scenes as the Arcadia struggles to save itself from the ionized gases' vice-like grip. Energy wakes, plasma tails, and a multi-coloured background has the Arcadia set in stark contrast against the sky. It's a film in love with animation, and the animation is happy being in love with the film.

Arcadia of My Youth Splash 4

It's a film in love with animation and the animation is happy being in love with the film

Sadly, this is one Trap Door title that is truly out of print. Animeigo put out a DVD in 2003 after Best Film and Video put a version on VHS entitled My Youth in Arcadia (the actual Japanese translated title), which ran uncut. Before that, Celebrity Home Entertainment put out a cut version called Vengeance of the Space Pirate. I’ve never seen the VHS versions, as the Animeigo DVD is complete with extensive liner notes. But as it is with Animeigo of late, it’s now out of print and running at forty-ish dollars on Amazon US. It’s up to you if you want to get it, but if you’re a Harlock fan, it is a good investment. Setting course across the cosmos, it’s leaving the Trap Door port with no bills to pay.

Otakon 2014: Hidenori Matsubara Discusses Character Design and Anime Shower Scenes

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Hidenori Matsubara, accomplished anime character designer, key animator, and animation directorLast weekend we had the privilege of speaking with veteran Japanese animator and character designer Hidenori Matsubara. You may know him from his work as a character designer on Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, Ah! My Goddess, and Sakura Wars, but he has also worked as a key animator and animation director on series like Evangelion, Bubblegum Crisis, and Perfect Blue. He's also part of the team developing director Sunao Katabuchi's new film at studio MAPPA, In This Corner of the World (we've got more on that film in our upcoming con coverage).

David sat down for a 15-minute private interview with the artist, and later Evan, Ink, and David all sat in on a public Q&A panel where we threw in some more questions we had for Mr. Matsubara. We've included transcripts of both our interview and the Q&A below.

Hearty thanks go out to the Otakon staff, including press and guest staff as well as the translator, who helped organize both events, and of course, Mr. Matsubara himself. Enjoy!



The cover of Hidenori Matsubara's collected Illustration Works

What kind of reference material do you use when animating something? For instance, when animating a running sequence, do you watch a video of someone running, or observe people in real life?

If I were animating a running sequence, I might use footage, try running myself, or record myself running. I might find someone else to do the running for me and watch that.

How do you act out something that a human may not even be capable of doing?

Well, that just has to come from your imagination. But as for common real-life activities, I often do it myself or film someone else doing it.

As an experienced animator, you’ve moved a lot from studio to studio. What’s the difference in atmosphere and work environment between the studios you’ve worked at?

Well, what people are doing is basically the same...

So it’s indistinguishable?

The people are different. And the amount of mess that’s in the office.

What’s the neatest office you’ve worked at?

Studio Khara [the studio in charge of the new Evangelion films].

Was that just because they were new at the time?

That depends on the managers. It’s not really about new or old; it’s who’s running it.

At least in the Western anime fandom, there’s a fascination with the director Satoshi Kon. You came into the end of the production of Paranoia Agent. What was it like working with Mr. Kon for that little bit?

It was really only a couple scenes. Actually, I was at a rap party, and I had worked with Mr. Kon recently, but it had been a long time since then. At the party he said “your work hasn’t been as good recently.” But he said that scene was done well.

A lot of mechanical animation is now done using 3DCG. What are your thoughts on the transition from hand-drawn, 2-D mecha animation to 3-D animation?

It’s still the same whether it’s drawn by hand or on a computer… And of course, the original designs are still drawn by hand. I guess the animation is more detailed, because it’s done on the computer, but even now, Gundam fight scenes are done by hand. And those are done very well!

Aim for the Top! Gunbuster

Public Q and A Panel

(Audience) Thank you for coming. I’m a big fan of your works, particularly Aim for the Top! Gunbuster. Do you have any good memories from working on Gunbuster?

Here’s an interesting story. While we were working on Wings of Honneamise, the staff was reading the Japanese magazine Animage. They had a feature on the tennis anime Aim for the Ace, and then we said, “oh, as a joke, why don’t we do Aim for the Top?” which is the title of Gunbuster. So it’s kind of weird that the whole anime started off as a joke. Episode 1 was kind of jokey, but then of course the story turned serious, so I thought the difference was very interesting.

Thinking back, that was [Evangelion director] Hideaki Anno’s first directorial work. Before that he was mostly just an artist and animator, so it was really weird watching him work as a director.

This memory wasn’t very fun for me, but I was working too hard on Gunbuster while also working on the first Patlabor movie, and I dropped some of the keyframes, so I feel a little bit bad about that one. That was one of the worst memories in my career.


(Audience) I’ve been following your work for the better part of the last 10 years, and I’m just curious: at what age did you realize that you had to draw?

I guess when I was 5 or 6, when I became conscious of art. I attended the design department of a technical high school, so that was basically when I knew what I was doing with my career.


(Audience) You went to a technical design program? Have you produced any designs besides your character design work?

I designed a dryer. That’s all I remember. I was in the graphic design department. Looking back, there was a class on mixing pastel colors, and that was pretty tough work. You should try it out sometime, just to see, but it’s really hard to manage color. I mean, even after 30 years it’s still on my mind.

Galaxy Express 999

(Audience) What inspires your work?

I used to watch a lot of anime as a kid, during the heyday of Space Battleship Yamato. Then the Galaxy Express 999 movie came out when I was in junior high, and that was the first time I became curious about how anime is made.

Before I got involved, I kind of got the feeling that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy watching animation anymore, and I was right. I can’t just watch anymore. Plus, nowadays I’m just too busy to watch.

The Story of Perrine, part of the World Masterpiece Theater series

(Audience) Is there a particular artist or animator that you’ve looked up to in your career?

There are too many animators for me to name right now. But for manga artists, the ones I was reading as a kid: Osamu Tezuka, Moto Hagio, Leiji Matsumoto. That’s basically my generation; they’re all older people. Of course, some of them are still working now. When I was a child I was watching Yamato999Gundam, and an anime called Treasure Island. And of course all the Miyazaki works, especially Future Boy Conan, and the anime directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino before Gundam.

All these are titles most people would list as their favorites. But one of my personal favorites was in the "World Masterpiece Theater," based on a novel called En Famille. It’s pretty obscure so… [some audience members cheer] oh, you know it! It’s called The Story of Perrine, and that was the sort of thing that made me want to be an animator. Wow, people do know The Story of Perrine? That makes me really happy.


(Ani-Gamers) New animators in Japan often apprentice under more experienced artists. Who did you apprentice under?

I guess when you’re in-betweening you’re basically the apprentice of the key animator. In order to match their art style, you’re watching the the key animators work, and that’s how you get better.

(Ani-Gamers) On projects where you work as a key animator, who typically assigns shots to you?

Usually when you’re a key animator, the director or the animation director picks scenes from a storyboard and says “you do this scene.”

Sometimes directors are like “just pick whatever scene you like.” When I was young I wanted to do action scenes, so I deliberately picked robot fight sequences. But sometimes the director said “no, not that scene, you should do these scenes,” and they were often shower scenes of girls.

That happened a couple times, so I missed out on doing robot scenes, but I became known for doing some girl shower scenes. So now I just say upfront, “I can’t do effects or robot scenes.”

However, after having animated a bunch of young girls, it’s actually more interesting to do some older people, so The Count of Monte Cristo was very interesting.

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

(Audience) What do you think are the elements of good character design?

Basic art skills and anatomy are important. Does the character look well balanced and, when looking at the range of characters, do they all look the same or does each person look different? Can the designer draw not just the girls and the hot guys, but older people and kids too?

I think what makes a good character is not even design, but direction, so I think of design as really second or third in importance.

After I was drawing all the cute girls, the backlash to that was The Count of Monte Cristo. I was actually relieved that I didn’t have to draw cute people anymore.


(Audience) Now that you’re quite well established as a character designer, do you find that people come to you earlier in the process, and don’t have ideas for characters already in mind when they ask you to create designs?

I guess in this industry you just make friends and acquaintances, and you call on each other, so it really depends on whether it’s the beginning of the project or the middle.

For example, for In This Corner of the World, I was called basically in the middle of the project. They had already been working on it for a couple years.

Sometimes the studio has a character design competition and I just submit work to that. Or sometimes the team that you’re working in, when they have a future project they say “oh, just stay on board.”

One of Matsubara's designs from Sakura Wars

(Audience) When designing characters, do directors give you pointers or ideas as to what they want?

It really depends on the director. For some characters they give you a lot of freedom, but for others they’re like, “Oh, it really has to be like this.” For example, Mamoru Oshii, the director, always wanted his main heroines to have really short hair.


(Audience) What can other production departments (such as background artists and mechanical designers) learn from character designers?

When I was working on Ah! My Goddess I thought it was interesting that there were all these cute characters, but the robots in the background were hyper-realistic and the clothing was very detailed. So we had these fantastical elements like goddesses, but all the props and little things were very realistic.

I feel that, no matter how fantastical the story is, if there’s some part that’s based on reality, that tightens it up.

(Audience) Could you describe your experience working on the Eva films? Also, are you working on 4.0?

What kind of things do you want to hear?

Just your favorite experience.

Since Evangelion was already famous as a TV show, the premiere was sort of like a festival, so I guess that was very interesting.

As for 4.0, I’ve left the studio, so I have no idea what’s going on over there. I’ve heard some rumors, but nothing I can share, so I’m sorry.

Promotional Evangelion calendar art from Matsubara

(Audience) As a key animator working on the Eva films, what was the most challenging scene that you had to animate?

I was a key animator on the third movie. That one was directed by Masayuki, and that guy never found any scene acceptable. He has all these personal stipulations and rules, which made it complicated. When you’re animating something, no matter what title it is, the basics are still the same, but it wasn’t like that for him. For the part I was involved in, the staff was comprised of people who knew what they were getting into, but it was still difficult. When I saw the first two movies, I thought “oh, this is gonna be difficult,” but I was placed in a team, so I just had to suck it up.


Evangelion 3.0 director Masayuki never found any scene acceptable. He has all these personal stipulations and rules, which made it complicated.

(Audience) In contrast to Masayuki, who’s the easiest director you’ve dealt with?

Actually, there aren’t many difficult people, which is why I chose that example. I guess Sunao Katabuchi’s a little bit difficult. He has a lot of demands. When I have a lot of freedom it’s a little easier.

(Ani-Gamers) What was your experience transitioning from traditional animation to digital animation?

For me personally, nothing changed.

I mean in terms of working with a tablet rather than on paper.

I do everything in pencil. I don’t even own a tablet. I did have one at one point and I did three or four illustrations on it, but I just like being able to hold my art in my hands, so I gave up the tablet.

Sure, the ability for it to look cleaned up on a computer is advantageous, but it just doesn’t feel right to me.


(Audience) Depicting weight distribution and center of gravity is very important in bringing characters to life in animation. What techniques do you use to depict weight distribution, and with animators using digital tools today, what advice do you have for them in depicting weight distribution in characters?

I haven’t really made any characters on a computer… I think it’s more useful for designing mecha, not characters. Most designers I know work with pencil and paper, not tablets. Very rarely do they work on computers. But these days they’re starting to use them on titles like Arpeggio of Blue Steel.

In terms of examples of successful CG, I guess Arpeggio is one. Otherwise, there’s the ending of Pretty Cure.


(Audience) Have you ever had an inconvenience like a broken air conditioner or other workplace issue affect your work?

I mean, nothing so extreme, but I guess I’m just used to the mess level in anime studios. I think Studio Khara is the cleanest studio in the industry.

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

(Ani-Gamers) What techniques did you use to create the clothing effect in Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo?

There’s a CG computer program that can do that, and when the director Mahiro Maeda first started on the anime he was like, “hey look what we can do with a computer!” So I actually wasn’t involved in that part; it was all Mr. Maeda’s decision. By the time I came on board, they had already decided on that CG program, but the fact that we only had to do the outline of the clothing made it very simple for us.

We created a pilot film as a shoutout to animators to get them to apply to work on The Count of Monte Cristo — to say “the series will look like this.” The keyframes looked really simple, but the finished product was supposed to look more complicated, so all the animators thought it looked deceptively simple, and they thought “maybe it’s supposed to be more difficult than this…” We were surprised when very few people applied!

Once you become good at animation, you start to express more in the sillhouette. And so when the artist isn’t very good they think the fewer lines the better, but actually it’s more difficult.

One of Matsubara's illustrations from Sakura Wars

(Reverse Thieves) We’ve seen your designs for the Tokyo, Paris, and New York troops in Sakura Wars, but while you were doing character design for Sakura Wars, did they have you come up with some ideas for other countries’ imperial troops within the Sakura Wars games? And if they did, which country would you like to make designs for?

Since I’m Japanese, Japanese characters are naturally the easiest. Foreign characters are more difficult.

(Ani-Gamers) You named Space Battleship Yamato as one of your favorite anime series. How did you get involved with Yamato 2199, and what was your reaction to being able to work on the project?

It felt wonderful, of course! I volunteered though. It's not like they came asking me to be a part of it. I also came in late, so the production schedule was rushed. Initially it was eight months for an episode, but that shrank to two weeks per episode. It feels like I missed out.

Click here for more coverage of Otakon 2014.

Snapshot: Pregnant with Anime (Short Peace)

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"Opening," the first of five short animations comprising the Short Peace DVD/BD, has a running time of just three minutes, and yet I watched it continuously for near an hour and a half on repeat. In addition to getting lost in its engrossing mix of strange, beautiful art styles and animation, my awe was arrested at the climax upon recognizing the plot as a conceptual extension of the classic invocation of the muse. Whereas the typical invocation usually consists of a poet calling to the goddesses of creativity for their inspiration or aid in telling a tale, this introductory sequence portrays the allure of the resultant art to its audience as well as the transformational effects of that consummation.

The first scene begins with a shot of what seems to be an abandoned shrine or large compound rendered in a uniform style rich in color, deep with shadow, and filled with the sounds of nature. This is the “real world,” the aesthetic environment viewers assume nominal because it is the establishing shot. The point of focus is a young girl, whose design complements the environment perfectly to drive home the fact that she is obviously a part of that world. Covering her eyes with her hands while squatting beneath a torii, she seems to be playing hide-and-seek with someone not in the shot. “Are you ready,” the onscreen girl asks three times in between weighty intervals. Upon finally hearing, “Yes, I’m ready” from afar, she slowly swings wide her hands from her face, like petals opening to welcome the dawn, to find that everything around her has changed, including (and most notably) herself.

The girl, representing consumers of anime, is ready to find a familiar friend (a bunny) in a familiar environment, but what she finds is another world (art). The bunny, which can stand in for imagination or intrigue and most definitely safety in familiarity, is the girl’s guide. Initially, the scenery (animation) differing from that which the girl is used to only sporadically punctuates the surrounding environment. As she explores further, however, these instances of the unfamiliar become more common — morphing into entire landscapes with visual and audible inhabitants equally (if not increasingly) alien. But the girl does not get scared. Instead, she giggles and ventures onwards having found new things to enjoy in a place where she didn’t expect to (say, four short animated stories directed by as many relatively underappreciated talents).

After her unusual journey, a girl more like the one depicted in the very beginning is shown in a complementary, modern-looking hallway looking up at a glowing orb hovering like so much an oracle. It suddenly swoops down, flies up the girl's dress, becomes a tiny spec of light within the girl, lifts her up, and twirls her about. The girl has (literally) taken in the media. Again, she changes. This time, however, the change is via costume and not art style. The girl becomes anime stock character after anime stock character via rapid fire outfit changes. She’s become pregnant with and thereby possessed by stories. This is the depiction of catharsis itself. As the background dims and everything else quickly fades with it, all that’s left is that glimmer of light, the seed, the essence of the story, which then erupts into the title of the feature: Short Peace.

This is the media that the viewer is about to consume and by which be likewise changed. "Opening" is an amazing feat of (most likely unintentional) animated metaphor which readies its audince for the fantastic: that to which it has most likely not yet been exposed. This, after all, is the essence of Short Peace, which should be bought ASAP via TRSI or Amazon.

Ink’s review of the rest of Short Peace can be found over at The Fandom Post

Otakon 2014 Schedule and the Return of Otaku Bingo

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It's Otakon season again, and this year Ink, David, and I will all be down in Baltimore for the East Coast's largest anime convention, press badges in hand. We're looking forward to a lot of the events and guests at the con, including Sunao Katabuchi (director of Mai Mai Miracle), Hidenori Matsubara (character designer and animation director for Rebuild of EvaAh! My Goddess, and a number of other series), and Masao Maruyama (founder of studios Madhouse and MAPPA).

I will be on three panels, though unfortunately none of my own (I missed the panels deadline like an idiot this year). First off, my coworker Danika and I will helm the Crunchyroll Industry Panel on Friday at 3pm in Panel 5. We're trying to switch up the format a tiny bit to focus more on some of our personal favorite shows, so hopefully this turns out to be a fun industry panel. Then on Saturday at 10:15am in Panel 1, we're following that up with the Crunchyroll Manga panel, detailing the manga titles on our service. Finally, on Saturday at 5pm in Panel 7, I'm a guest (alongside a couple other cool anime writer folks) on Mike Toole's Write about Anime for Fun and Profit panel.

Otaku Bingo

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and at last year's Otakon there was a distinct absence of our annual Otaku Bingo game. I expect so much fondness this year, because it's back! We've compiled a list of some new and old squares, each representing some irritating or bemusing aspect of anime con culture. Print out your own copy and try to get Bingo while walking around the con! (If you're playing by the rules, the game doesn't begin until the con opens on Friday and it runs until it closes on Sunday.)

If you get a "BINGO," email us at otakubingo [AT] anigamers [DOT] com, tweet us @AniGamers, or leave us a post on Facebook, and we'll include your bingo card in a future post.

[Click here for a PDF of the Bingo card for you to print at home]

*We'll probably have some extra Bingo cards on-hand at the con too, but don't count on it!


In case you're looking to follow us around, or at least get an idea of what's good at the con, Ink's full schedule — subject, as always, to on-the-fly changes — is available below. See you there!

4:30–5:30pm: Sumo Demonstration Matsuri
7:15–8:00pm: Peelander Z Concert Matsuri

10:00–11:00am: Ghibli in Love (Panel 1) OR Intro to Josei (Panel 3)
11:15am–12:15pm: Katabuchi Q&A (Panel 6)
12:30–1:30pm: Light Novel Translation (Panel 1)
1:30–3:30pm: Mai Mai Miracle Video 1
4:15–5:15pm: Journey to the Stars (Panel 3)
4:15–5:15pm: Yukio Mishima: Samurai Poet (Panel 4)
5:30–6:30pm: Kurosawa: Romancing the Samurai (Panel 6)
6:45–7:45pm: Japanese Drinking Culture: Proper Etiquette and Presentation (Panel 5)
9:15–10:15pm: Totally Subversive Toons (Panel 1)
10:00–11:00pm: Japanese Whisky 101 (Panel 6)

9:00–10:00am: Amazingly Obscure Anime (Panel 1)
10:15–11:15am: Satanicartoons: The Devil (Panel 5)
11:30am–12:30pm: Drawing with Kozaki (Panel 2)
1:00–2:00pm: A Japanese Fairytale: The Dragon and the Shisa (Workshop 1)
2:00–3:00pm: Maruyama/MAPPA Q&A (Panel 3)
3:15–4:15pm: Matsubara Q&A (Panel 3) OR Kodansha Comics (Panel 4)
4:30–5:30pm: Katabuchi Q&A (Panel 1)
5:45–6:45pm: Fandoms/Facepalms (Panel 2)
7:00–8:00pm: Ai Yazawa: The Retrospective (Panel 5)
9:15–10:15pm: Sake 101 (Panel 6)
10:30–11:30pm: Measure of Man: Fate/Stay (Panel 4)
11:45pm–12:45am: Ninjas/Kawajiri (Panel 4)

9:00–10:00am: Visual Novel/Psychology (Panel 3)
11:30am–12:30pm: Sumo Q&A (Panel 3)
10:15–11:15am: When Moe Goes Bad (Panel 4)
12:45–1:45pm: Maruyama & Matsubara (Panel 4)